BLUF: Solid MLB regular that always entices people to expect more because of draft position and swing.
The Player: Josh Vitters (3B, Chicago Cubs) – Third overall pick in the 2007 draft. Debuted with just a .118 average in 14 games that year. Hit .328/.365/.498 in 61 games with Boise in 2008 and received a four game trial in the Midwest League at seasons end. Hit very well with a .316 average and 15 home runs in 70 games in the Midwest League as a 19-year old in 2009. Struggled after a promotion to High-A that year, hitting just .238 in 50 games. Figured things out in 2010 with a .291/.350/.445 line in 28 games at High-A and then stumbled with a .223/.292/.383 line in 63 Double-A games. Hit a solid .283/.322/.448 in a full season at Double-A in 2011 and has hit .302 with 25 doubles and 13 home runs in Triple-A this year.
Basis of Report: Compilation – Industry Contacts
Body (6-2, 200): Good MLB body with good strength throughout. Works hard at his conditioning and is a solid athlete but not spectacular. Could still thicken up a little more but may have plateaued at current size.
Hit: Gorgeous swing. Great hands, plus bat speed, excellent hitting mechanics. Crazy natural contact ability. Lacks pitch recognition and is very willing to go out of the zone for contact, just because he can. Not enough consistent, hard contact. Too much weak contact on pitches out of the hitting zone. Must curtail approach and improve pitch recognition for raw ability to shine through. Even with deficiencies, still makes so much contact that he can hit at an average level. Could be a plus hitter with just modest improvements, but given slow pace of change, difficult to project plus tool. Grade – 40/50
Power: Can show good power in batting practice. Has bat speed and natural strength, with loft in swing to drive ball out of the park and to the gaps routinely. Swings at pitches he can’t drive, decreasing in-game power output. Similar to hit tool, mild improvements in approach and pitch recognition would allow power to play at an average level with 20+ doubles and 15-20 home runs. Grade (raw power) – 40/50
Arm: Nothing flashy. Enough arm for third base. Can make throws on the run with zip and some accuracy. Struggles on off-balance throws down the line, lacking the arm strength to fire it across diamond. Arm can play at third. Grade – 50/50
Fielding: Has made good strides at third base. Chance to be average with additional polish. Isn’t going to make any big plays but should make plays on balls he gets to and will have fringy range to both sides. Some scouts still believe he has to move to 1B, but that opinion is becoming more scarce. Would be fringe-average now and just needs minor improvements in consistency to be average. Grade – 40/50
Speed: Has filled out frame since draft. Fringe-average runner at times but more consistently below-average from home to first. Should stay in that range long term. Grade – 40/40
Summation: Lots of average tools that will play in MLB. Not the star or above-average player his draft position suggests. Chance to be a solid regular at third base. Offense will be most valuable tool as defense is always going to have skeptics. Can hit .270-.280 with pop and hit in the sixth or seventh spot in a good lineup. Without development, likely to settle in as more of a corner utility guy that could add left field to his profile. Nothing sexy but does enough well to be a big leaguer and hold down a position through cost-controlled seasons.
Relative Risk: Low. He is what he is. There’s not a lot of development left and what he does now can play in MLB at the levels suggested.
Future: Could get an MLB look late this year as the Cubs continue to rebuild. Unlikely to be a major piece of the next contending team in Chicago but can be a solid player that helps out over the next few years.